Governor’s Council Forced to Put Parole Board Member on Hot Seat


The staid and little-known Governor’s Council was where the action was on Beacon Hill earlier this week. A Parole Board member seeking reappointment to a second term faced allegations Wednesday from a former colleague that she brings "chaos and destruction of morale" to the agency.

Colette Santa has been a member of the Parole Board since 2017, when she was confirmed by the Governor's Council on a 5-2 vote following an extensive career in corrections.

She served as a warden and regional director in Puerto Rico's correctional system before starting work in the Massachusetts Department of Correction in 2009, and was the Parole Board's transitional services chief up until Gov. Charlie Baker tapped her to serve as a board member.

Parole Board members serve five-year terms. If the governor chooses to reappoint a member, they go through another interview process with the elected Governor's Council and are again subject to a confirmation vote.

Santa's council hearing this year has dragged on through multiple postponements and a continuance. On Monday, two days before the council was finally set to interview Santa, former Parole Board member Lucy Soto-Abbe emailed all the councilors with harsh words for the nominee, saying she "observed that [Santa] lacked the necessary skills to perform effectively in this position."

"The quantity of questions asked by her during [parole] hearings, including lifer hearings, were limited. When she did ask questions, they lacked substance and quality. She has brought nothing to the agency other than chaos and destruction of morale," Soto-Abbe wrote.

Soto-Abbe went on to allege that Santa, during her time as the board's transitional services chief, had "ruled with intimidation tactics, such as denying employees time off, violating civil service rules, cyberbullying employees via email, punishing employees if they spoke up, and punishing employees after being sued for civil service violations."

Soto-Abbe served on the board from 2011 to 2019, including two years alongside Santa.

Councilor Chris Iannella (D-Boston) tried to get to the bottom of those charges, along with an anonymous list of complaints and allegations against Santa that Soto-Abbe said came from "several staff members."

"[Soto-Abbe] hasn't spoken against other people, but she's speaking against you. Did you read the letter from her?" asked Iannella.

No, Santa said, she just learned about the letter on Wednesday.

Ianella asked if she wanted to see a copy of it.

"No, not really," she replied.

Santa said she had a good working relationship with Soto-Abbe during their time together on the board.

Asked what she thought Soto-Abbe meant by writing that she "ruled with intimidation tactics," Santa said, "No need to intimidate. If I only ask you to do your job, if I'm only asking you to do your job, that's a part of the collective bargaining agreement, you have to do your job. I'm not going to ask you to do anything that is outside of your job description."

Others Councilors also asked pointed questions to which Santa only partially replied, in most cases.

The council is scheduled to meet next Wednesday, when it could vote on whether to keep Santa on the board for another five years.


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